Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman named Ron, who had been working for over 40 years and was nearing retirement. His career was spent in the manufacturing industry and over time Ron became one of the
most trusted and valued employees within his organization.

He was well known for his upstanding character, technical skills and ability to mentor and engage younger staff. He was well respected and had a reputation for being cooperative and good at working with others to solve problems. Yet despite all that he brought to the organization, no one had met with him to understand whether he would be interested in retaining a relationship with the company post-retirement. In addition, his job had not been posted, and there were no plans for an exit interview or to figure out how he would transfer all his knowledge and experience into a tangible resource for the organization. Some of his colleagues identified that the organization had no real idea of all the work Ron performed in his position, but they would soon find out.

In this edition of Thinking Strategically About Your Human Resources, we discuss the importance of retaining organizational knowledge, through succession planning and maintaining meaningful relationships with your retiring employees.

Often, the departure of a tenured employee is thought about within the context of a retirement party and a plaque. And little attention is given to the vast amount of knowledge and experience that will be leaving the business once the senior employee exits the work site on her last day. Sometimes, older employees are not viewed as valuable to a business as they reach retirement, and their contributions are spoken of in the past rather than the present or future. Such a perspective is harmful to the older employee and the business operationally.

In his work From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life., Harvard Business Professor Arthur Brooks writes about redefining success along with identifying two types of intelligence that individuals possess, fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

Relying on the research findings of Raymond Cattell from the 1960’s, Brooks in an NPR interview defines fluid intelligence as the “ability to solve problems…innovate faster and to focus harder”, and crystallized intelligence as “the ability to compile the information….to teach better, to explain better, to form teams better….and to form right questions”.

Considering the benefits of crystallized intelligence to an organization and addressing the concerns of knowledge retention, business owners and their departing employees can create a mutually beneficial post-retirement relationship. Here are a few suggestions to get the process started to develop the practice of retaining organizational knowledge through succession planning.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Identify the individuals in your organization that are eligible for retirement.
  • Identify the key roles in your organization based on an assessment of factors link to short- and long-term goals.
  • Through interviews with your key individuals, identify all the responsibilities and duties performed by them, including the responsibilities identified in the job description and those accountabilities that have been assumed throughout their tenure
  • Identify the essential customer, vendor and supplier relationships that are linked to your key roles
  • Identify who are the potential employees at all levels in your organization that could move into key roles within a particular timeframe.
  • Ask your key individuals, whether they can provide a recommendation for a replacement that can be trained and onboarded before the retirement occurs. Keep in mind that the ideals equity of opportunity for potential candidates
  • Is this individual willing to return to our organization in some capacity to assist with knowledge transfer and share their expertise?
  • For your potential retirees, identify their ability to take on mentoring or sponsorship duties before they depart your organization.
  • For potential successors, determine their level of connection to your potential key retirees. If they are not connected create opportunities for them to connect through projects, mentoring groups, and informal activities
  • Identify where and how your organisation is currently stored.

Following the consideration of the above, it is imperative that you consider the character traits of your departing employees before asking for them to be part of your succession planning work for it to be productive and beneficial to your company and the individual.

  • Consider how this individual achieved business and relational outcomes? Was it through a commitment to working well with others?
  • Did this individual demonstrate a willingness to share information, listen to the ideas of others and value their perspective?
  • Is the individual able to convey values and effective relational behaviours that are needed now and in the future?
  • Does the individual want to maintain a relationship with your organization and if so, what would this look like (contract work, part-time hours)?

Do not underestimate the contributions of your senior, experienced employees. If they have been with your organization for many years, they can adapt, possess foresight and a specific set of skills that may be difficult for
you to quantify or replace.

Talented employees are required for the recovery and sustainability of organizations post-pandemic. While many employees are choosing to resign under the phenomena of the “great resignation”, the potential exists to continue to
engage with former employees. Encouraging them to enjoy retirement in a meaningful way through teaching and sharing their expertise. This engagement strategy can prepare your business for 2022 and beyond.

To discuss benefits for your employees, contact Mike at or (416) 428-7728. Employee Benefits and Savings Plans – Home – Black Brick Capital

To discuss your strategic human resources issues, please get in touch with Marcella by email at or (416) 898-7387 Marcella Kowalchuk Consulting Inc.

Stay well and stay safe.